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Royal Faculty Building

In 1817, the Faculty of Procurators established a library for use by its members. In the first decades of the library's establishment, it moved location several times, before being given a permanent home in a purpose-built library in St George's Place - now Nelson Mandela Place. The land upon which the library was built was previously a wood yard, and was bought by the Faculty in 1852, with the building officially opening in 1857. Several proposals for the design of the Royal Faculty building were submitted, but the proposal which was ultimately accepted was an Italianate design by Charles Wilson, inspired by the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice.

Charles Wilson video
Video presentation on the architect Charles Wilson by Fiona Sinclair

Charles Wilson was a prolific Glasgow architect who designed many buildings, mostly in Glasgow and the surrounding area. He worked first in the office of David Hamilton, and later established his own practice. Among his best known buildings are the terraced houses at Park Circus, the Queen's Rooms beside Kelvingrove Park, Lews Castle in Stornoway, and Gartnavel Hospital. Even this small sample of his work demonstrates his versatility and range, featuring styles from Scots Baronial to neoclassical. In this video, Fiona Sinclair, architect, discusses the design of the Royal Faculty building as well as some of Charles Wilson's other work.

Video tour of the Royal Faculty building

The main library was described in the Glasgow Herald of 12 June 1857 as "one of the most exquisite halls in the West of Scotland." Nine marble busts of former members of the Faculty and other notables add character to the library. It is still used as a working space by solicitors and advocates and houses an extremely important collection of legal texts.

The small library houses a collection of older legal reference books. The room is also used for meetings and consultations. The fine 'Bicentenary window' was commissioned from John K. Clark for the 1996 bicentennial celebration of the Royal Faculty's first royal charter.

The Faculty Hall has been used for a variety of purposes over the years including auctions and Royal Faculty lunches. Currently it is used, in the main, for holding seminars, lectures and meetings. It also houses a collection of texts on old Glasgow, nominate case reports and manuscripts.


The Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow is housed in a grand building in the Italianate style, which features rusticated stonework and ornate sculpted ornaments on the exterior, and elaborate plasterwork on the interior. The exterior stonework features carved heads on each keystone above the ground-floor windows, Corinthian columns, and various decorative elements, including the Faculty's crest. Inside the main entrance of the building is a sweeping Genoese staircase, which leads up to the main library. The building also contains the Faculty Hall, mostly used for events and seminars; the small library; an attic room which houses most of the Hill Collection; and several other rooms, which are used as offices. The main library is a large hall with high Corinthian columns, graceful arches over the shelf bays, a decorative moulded ceiling, and plaster heads made to the same design as the heads on the exterior stonework. The plasterwork, especially in the main library and the staircase, is one of the most eye-catching features of the interior, which highlights the design of the rooms and complements the stonework.

Faces of the Faculty

The keystones and the plaster heads of the Royal Faculty building were all designed by Alexander Handyside Ritchie. The stone heads were carved by master mason James Shanks and the plaster heads were made by James Steel, who also modelled the exterior guilloche mouldings for the building.


The keystone heads all represent leading Scottish lawyers, officials and statesmen of the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of the best known among them are James Dalrymple, 1st Viscount Stair; Duncan Forbes of Culloden; and Lord Francis Jeffrey. James Dalrymple was a lawyer, a judge, and Lord President of the Court of Session in the 18th century. One legacy of his work is the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia, an encyclopaedia of the laws of Scotland which is the successor to his book 'The Institutions of the Laws of Scotland.' Duncan Forbes was also a lawyer, judge and Lord President of the Court of Session. He played an important role in the suppression of the Jacobite rising in 1745, and was forced to flee to Skye after the Frasers laid siege to his house and attempted to kidnap him. Francis Jeffrey was a Scottish lawyer, a Lord Advocate and literary critic who was one of the founders and chief editors of the Edinburgh Review.


There are also twelve busts in the library, which depict prominent former members of the Faculty, many of whom were Deans of the Faculty or Sheriffs. One of these busts is of Francis Jeffrey, previously mentioned. Another is of Archibald Alison, 1st Baronet, who was Sheriff of Lanarkshire and after whom Allison Street in Glasgow is thought to be named. Another of these busts is of James Roberton, who was a prominent member of the Faculty in the 19th century, and who was the Chair of Law at Glasgow University.

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